1824 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lord Byron

Anonymous, "Byron, a Dirge" The Sun (22 July 1824).



The wild harp is silent that gladdened the feast
At Liberty's banquet, outspread in the East;
And BYRON his last Lay of Freedom hath breath'd,
When his treasures were found, and his weapon unsheath'd,
Ah! who shall for Greece the impression renew
Of the songs that he sung, and the sword that he drew,
And the proud hope of glory, self summoned in vain,
From Thermopyle's portal and Marathon's plain?
Up! Tempest of War! — let thy lightnings release
The dark chain of her Hellespont! Freedom to Greece!
He who rivalled her heroes, and worshipp'd her charms,
Ere the first of his fields hath expired in her arms.
Alas! for the fierce thrill of fever that tore him
From friends that for ever were bound to adore him.—
Come ye who inhabit the clime of the North,
Drop a veil on his rashness, — a tear for his worth.
Will ye pause, in this hour, his excesses to measure,
Who in Liberty's scale flung his broadsword and treasure?
While ye number, for judgment, the statues he broke,
Recal what he wrenched from the Infidels yoke:
He tore the chill bond of your manners and laws,
But he seal'd in his death to humanity's cause.
Forget for a moment his Lays overflowing
With satire too daring, or passion too glowing:
Song burst like a lava stream warm from his soul,
In its love or its hate, o'er all human controul;
Sweeping on, as if Poetry's pulse had first run
From the clime of the East, and the font of the sun!
Feeble Modern, condemn not a spirit so bold,
That was cast for the cause in Antiquity's mould.
Give the laurel eternal, — the cloud pacing horse,
To the Bard that breath'd life through Antiquity's course;
And flung, like the ivy, his mantle of rhyme
O'er the mighty laid low by the scythe-car of Time:
Sage — hero — and beauty — divine in their day—
Live their bright life of glory once more in his Lay;
The Assyrian looks up from his death bed of flame,
By his Poet redeemed from long ages of shame;
And the genius of Athens, — the spirit of Rome,
Breathe again from the ruins that once were their home.
Weep! — daughter of Salem, an exile was he
Who poured thy 'lorn song over "far Galilee."
Mourn: Germany, mourn! for the Poet was thine,
Who romanced on the vine-bearing banks of the Rhine;
And Belgium, the dark Muse of Sorrow shall woo,
For the Pilgrim whose tears fell on red Waterloo.
Weep, Sons of Albania, your Laureat was dear,
Lovely Venice, lament the blue-eyed gondolier;
Iberia, thine olive branch dewed with a tear—
Lusitania, thy laurels hang thick on his bier!
And thou too, Helvetia! Sublimity's throne,
With Alp, Lake, and Glacier, and blue rushing Rhone;
And cataract swoln to rend mountains asunder,
And avalanche, rivalling e'en Heaven in its thunder,
Were thy grandeur or loveliness — calm or commotion,
By Pilgrim e'er praised with so true a devotion?
Ah! no! may the land of the landscape grow dim
On all eyes, when she ceases to echo his hymn;
Ye will mourn! but, alas! your affection is peace
To the pang that convulses REGENERATE GREECE.
Chief mourner for BYRON, her sorrows fall fast,
And her hair that was garlanded floats on the blast,
And the festival robe in her anguish is rent,
As her eye on the corse of her lover is bent:
For her's was the clime of the Poet's new birth,—
The sole tie of country that bound him to earth,—
The land that his genius acknowledged, and blest,—
The home where his pilgrimage ended in rest.
And there, on the shore that he chose for his own,
Let his ashes repose now, the spirit is flown;
And deem it but last as a labour of love,
The relics of BYRON from Greece to remove:
Pile the turf on his dust, amid classical graves,
On the greenest of hills, by the brightest of waves?
Where an early-bound pilgrim he worshipped the Muse,
And the laurel besought, that she could not refuse.
For he knelt not the raptures of Art to rehearse,
Was the laurel undying? — as deathless the verse!—
Tears of Beauty and Bravery, falling to nourish,
The evergreen bough that for BYRON shall flourish.